Philipp Petzschner came to Zagreb to play doubles, by the end of the weekend he had become a German hero. On Saturday he played fantastic tennis to help Christopher Kas to win the doubles, but he went a step further on Sunday, winning the decisive fifth rubber against Ivo Karlovic 64 76(3) 76(5) to seal Germany’s place in the quarterfinals.
It was a strange day, full of changes. Captain Goran Prpic had to call on Karlovic to replace Ivan Dodig, who was exhausted, after playing 10 sets lasting over nine hours in the last two days.
Patrick Kuhnen had to choose between Florian Mayer, who lost a five setter on the first day, or Philipp Petzschner, who is a rookie, having played only one Davis Cup singles match prior to Sunday. He went with Petzschner, a brave decision.
"Philipp played fantastic on Saturday. The way he was returning Karlovic’s serve was outstanding. I felt that Mayer could not play on Sunday as it would have been too tough, so I decided to go with Petzschner,” explained Kuhnen. “It was brave; it was wise, it was right. Petzschner played a great match. He broke first game, and never looked back. He was returning like he was playing against a junior, not a world record holder.”
"I knew that the winner would be the one who does his thing best. Karlovic’s serve or me returning,” said Petzschner. “Breaking the first game was a huge help, it was, maybe my best game of the match."
Petzschner is a shot maker, and he showed it once again. Another tiebreak brought another explosion of great returns which gave him the match and a huge celebration on the court.
"I did what I could. I fought the best I could, had some bad luck, had some chances, but it did not go my way. Petzschner was just too good,” said Karlovic, who is still recovering from a heel operation which kept him off the tour for six months.
Earlier in the day Marin Cilic had brought Croatia even with a comfortable win against Philipp Kohlschreiber. Cilic played brilliantly in the first two sets, he could not make a mistake, winning 85% of his first serve and breaking five times. Kohlschreiber fought back in the third set but could not capitalise on a 4-2 tiebreak lead. Cilic who served well for most of the match hit two aces to go 5-4 up, then failed to finish the match after serving a double fault at 6-5, but with his third match point he made no mistake.
"It was one of the best matches or the season. I served extremely well and that helps. Third set was more complicated, but I played well again in the tiebreak,” said Cilic.
Sadly two singles wins from Cilic was not enough to help Croatia. So close, but not close enough. Croatia could not replicate their performance against Zimbabwe in 1993, the only time Croatia overturned a 2-1 defecit and won both singles on the last day. That day Prpic won the fifth rubber against Wayne Black. He could not repeat that feat as a captain.
Germany will play the winner of Austria v France match. If it's Austria Germany will be away, if it's France, the Germans will host.
Kuhnen was diplomatic: "Both teams are difficult, but if I could chose, it would be better to play at home. But, I cannot pick that winner, so it's best to celebrate, and then see.”